Communication in the sport of basketball is important for every single player on the court, especially on the defensive side of the ball. When you aren’t in control of the ball itself, it is vital that you and your teammates on the same page in order to effectively slow down and prevent an offensive explosion. Rather than just reacting to what the offense does, a strong defense should be able to predict what they are planning to do, and communicating is the first step in developing that shared mindset.

First, narrowing in on who has the ball can give you an idea of the type of the play the offensive is about to run, whether it’s the point guard or strong forward at the helm. Call out loud who you are covering once everyone is in position, making sure that all opposing players are accounted for and that no one is forced in an uneven matchup.

The second a defender sees an opposing player going up for a shot, he or she should yell loud enough to let their teammates know the ball is in the air so that everyone can get in position for either a rebound or preventative play. Similarly, when screen plays are implemented by the offense, there should be a communication system in place to address the situation and make sure no defender or opposing player is lost in the scramble.

Practicing these communication strategies is very important, as it may come unnaturally at first. First, identify what you and your team want to say in each and every situation imaginable. For coaches, these responsibilities should then be delegated among the players. A good piece of advice is repeating whatever word needs to be said three times in rapid succession to make sure it is clearly heard. For example, yelling “ball, ball, ball” rather than saying it once and risk having it go unnoticed.

Utilize these practice sessions as opportunities for unique and unexpected situations, and see how your players react communicatively. The more repetition, the more comfortable they will be during in-game situations.

It’s very difficult to control defensive possessions as a coach, so communication among your players is vital in order to alleviate that stress at least a little bit. While you cannot make every decision for every player on the court, you can teach effective coaching habits that will give them the tools to make the best decisions for themselves and their teammates.